Carbon County’s new single “Panic!”

Strung together with a humble pop vernacular, gentle swing beat, and a moderate rock electricity beneath its every verse, there’s a case to be made that Carbon County’s new single “Panic!” is everything a throwback track should be – a celebration of vintage aesthetics presented through the lens of contemporary songcraft. Carbon County is on fire in this performance, especially within the context of the current underground, and they aren’t stuck in the past like a lot of their peers are with “Panic!;” on the contrary, it would appear they’re exploiting elements of a classic pop concept that has little to do with their own creative story in this latest release.

Here, they’re out to prove that not only have they refused to slow down in the past, but that they’re still interested in being the experimental act they were often never able to fully embrace due to the restrictiveness of their increasingly closed-off music scene. The chains are off in this single, and quite honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this kind of a band sound quite as cathartic and unadorned by unnecessary fluff as they are in 2023.  

“Panic!” is a very beat-driven piece of material, but if I’m being honest, I don’t think the drums are potent enough to steal anything serious away from the harmony. The vocal intertwines with the bassline and sizzle on the strings as if to reunite elements that were never to be separated from each other in the first place, and although it’s not the only component of the master mix kicking up some dust in the face of the mainstream mundane, it’s the most consistent point of provocativeness here.

The fluidity of the lyrics makes it feel as though the music must have come first, but with the chemistry these players share, who could ever be completely certain without asking them directly? There’s a heavier pop sensibility to the rhythm here than I had initially anticipated, but it’s undisputedly what allows for the song to be as easy a listen as it is, even after a couple of spins on the stereo (which simply isn’t something I’ve been able to say for the majority of new pop/rock to have come across my desk in the last few months).  

Carbon County is looking forward by essentially getting back to the basics of pop songwriting in their most recent studio work “Panic!,” but overall, I think longtime fans are going to appreciate the familiarity of the music here – especially as it relates to the band’s growth in recent years. They’re not shy about staying away from the pseudo-surreal indulgences that too often plague a lot of their young contemporaries trying to follow a similar path in their own careers, and more importantly, I don’t think they translate as a group of players still trying to cling to some kind of relevancy after their prime has passed. Carbon County is the randy group of rock n’ rollers we need them to be in this piece, and with everything this genre has endured on and off stage, that’s quite the achievement indeed.  

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